By Ann Brody Guy, College of Natural Resources
A key University of California, Berkeley, research station is threatened by the King Fire in El Dorado County. Blodgett Research Forest, 4,270 acres located 10 miles east of Georgetown, is home to scores of UC Berkeley investigations on trees and other plants, fish and wildlife populations, insects, diseases, soils, atmospheric chemistry and wildfire management techniques.
Backfiring—controlled burns to contain greater wildfire damage—is expected to begin tonight (Friday, Sept. 19) from a fire line established today on the Blodgett property. The arson-sparked King Fire has burned more than 89,000 acres (as of Tuesday morning), triggering evacuations, incinerating trees, and closing Highway 50 and local roads.
As of Tuesday the fire was 35 percent contained, according to Calfire. University personnel have been evacuated from the research station and UC Berkeley fire experts in El Dorado County and on the Berkeley campus, based at the College of Natural Resources (CNR), are coordinating with the U.S. Forest Service, which manages wildfires in this region, and Calfire on priorities for defending the property.
“With 50 years of annual harvests and 40 years of annual measurements of permanent plots, Blodgett is the Rosetta Stone for the Sierra Nevada with respect to the interactions of forests, management and fires,” said William Stewart, a forestry researcher and co-director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Forestry. In addition, Stewart said, the half-century of monitoring gives Blodgett the longest continuous record on forests in the Sierra Nevada.
While the spread of the King Fire to Blodgett would result in a discontinuity in the long-term data collection, it simultaneously would launch the start of data collection on a new continuum—a unique opportunity to learn, say Berkeley fire experts.